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Temporarily working with enemies?

+2 votes
I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on temporarily working with people who want to create very different things, but with whom there is overlap in what they want to destroy in that process.

For example, say some anarchists are planning on bombing some building, and some neo nazis also want to bomb the same building (for different reasons).  If working with the neo nazis would help the project (in terms of resources, maximization of destruction etc.), what are reasons not to form an alliance?

To partially answer my own questions, I suppose depending on the purpose and intent of the act, allying with people who are philosophically or ideologically at odds with the anarchists could taint the symbolic purity of the act.
Another example is if in a protest/riot there is a black bloc and also some militant neo nazis, both fighting cops, do you see it as productive for the black bloc to fight the neo nazis?

I'm sort of all over the place here, and for that I apologize. Basically, I'm curious as to what you think about working temporarily with enemies to help fight bigger enemies.
asked Apr 6, 2014 by stargrave (290 points)
reshown Sep 10, 2016 by dot
I don't know how I would answer the following question, but here are two thoughts:

-technically, we are working with "enemies" when we are going about our lives, using the internet, buying food at the grocery store, ect. Now, classifying everyone in society as an enemy is tad bit absurd, but the way that we tend to live is a pretty drastic contradiction of the non-political reality that anarchists want.

-you don't want to work with neo-nazis, nor do you want them to know your name unless you want them to fear you or something like that. Nothing good can come out of working with people who want to kill, enslave, or use the state to kick non-white people out of the country. If someone knows personal information about you, or you have some sort of "alliance" with them, then that gives them a way to fuck you over, which neo-nazis will certainly do if they feel it benefits them or their "cause"

3 Answers

+3 votes
ew.  you got "symbolic purity" in my anarchy.

how are you defining enemies, and how are you defining goals.

one of the few things that distinguishes anarchists from other tendencies is the idea that the end does not justify the means, or that in fact, the ends and the means are not separable.
the practical reason not to work with people who are not anarchist is that we get confused about what it means to be a friend, vs what it means to be engaged in anarchist activities with someone. (OBViously they're not mutually exclusive. but they're not the same thing either.) that confusion can be deadly, as it has been for anarchists in history (usually the commies end up killing us).

and of course, the idea of categorizing the nazis (since you used them as an example) as a "smaller enemy" is a way of defining enemies that i, for one, totally disagree with. they are a subsection of the bigger enemy, which does not make them a smaller enemy; calling them "smaller" is like calling the cops "smaller," and i consider them similarly. they are both shock troops for the system.

and finally, on some level i consider most everyone my enemy--including myself--if one defines "enemy" as "someone keeping me from living a liberated life."

hmmm. had to come back and modify that last paragraph.
i also consider everyone my ally, if we consider allies to be people who point out weaknesses/opportunities to become more who we want to be.

just sayin'. :)
answered Apr 7, 2014 by dot (50,980 points)
edited Apr 7, 2014 by dot
So I take it you're not a fan of symbolic acts. Could you elaborate?

What do you see as ends? I only see means. Means to me is trying to live a continually more liberated life (to borrow your words), but doing so doesn't have a specific endgame.

I don't understand the practical reason you explained. Specifically
"we get confused about what it means to be a friend, vs what it means to be engaged in anarchist activities with someone."
Are you saying that anarchists working with fascists would forget the scope of the alliance and befriend them?

Sort of a moot point mind you, given that you debunked the notion of a "smaller enemy" for me in your following paragraph. I thought the shock troop analogy was useful, as was (one of) your understanding of enemies.

P.S. Can you recommend any readings about unofficial "shock troops" for the system?
i am probably reacting more to purity than to symbolism, but i'm not stoked about symbols either.
what is considered by most to be actions against the state, are almost always symbolic, so symbolic is coming to mean weak, empty, self-aggrandizing.
symbols *can* be powerful, but mostly symbols are powerful for reasons that we (me and the people i know/care about) cannot influence or create, ie, time (most significantly).

i can't think of any reading off the top of my head, except for a studs terkel interview with someone who was a grand cyclops in the kkk, who realized, when approached by politicians in his small town, that he and the kkk were being used by these politicians (who would deny them in public, while they supported the kkk behind closed doors).

people do become confused when they are friends with folks -- there are plenty of racists  who are pro-environment (or anti-state, or anti-religion), for example, and that can be confusing for some. and racism is a much clearer-cut issue than some of the ones that separate anarchists from maoists, marxists, etc.
but more i was talking about it working the other way. people are friends, and so want to do projects with folks, and/or to smoosh away the relevant differences in what would make/be a better world.
+6 votes
It would make much more sense to use actual examples of anarchists working with non-anarchists; I know of no examples of anarchists and neo-nazis finding any common temporary cause to share. It's far more likely that anarchists wind up working in alliances with liberals and leftists; that's something I've seen plenty, due to some Big Idea overlap about such nebulous (but compelling) notions like social justice.

But the larger issue for me is this: What are goals/intentions of those wanting some alliance? Usually the rationale has to do with the number of people involved in some campaign, but that logic is based on a flawed democratic fetish, which makes the absurd equation of the larger the number of people mobilized, the more correct the campaign's goals. This assumes a politics of masses, which, while it might be comforting for political deviants like anarchists to think they may be included after all, is actually an invocation of the mob or the crowd. This is populism, not anarchism.

I'm more interested in working with temporary friends. I don't believe people who are wedded to hierarchical visions of the present or future can be anything but implacable enemies of anarchists, now and tomorrow.

So perhaps a more interesting question to ask would be "how do we identify those who are our potential (if only temporary) friends?"
answered Apr 7, 2014 by lawrence (13,560 points)
I think that your last sentence articulates the question I was trying to get at.

Why do you think people with hierarchical visions can be nothing but enemies of anarchists? I realize this comes across as a dumb question, but I am interested in your answer.

edit: slight rephrasing
As anarchists, we prefer to work without a separation of means and ends, as was mentioned above. When we do that, we try to use horizontal decision making and decision implementing strategies, as should be expected. If there are some hierarchical douchebags around who perhaps share one particular goal with us, why would we expect them to work horizontally and in an alliance with us if we insist that to be consistent anarchists, we need to work non-hierarchically with everyone else? It just wouldn't work for achieving anarchist goals, at least not that I've seen or heard about or studied. Hierarchs are able and accustomed to commanding others, and there's a cunning efficiency to that when trying to get certain shit done, but not in the long run for anarchists. However, the temptation to adopt/adapt to/revert to hierarchy and representational decision making because of such short-term so-called success has always meant the doom of those anarchists foolish enough to go down that path. There is not a single example in anarchist history of anarchists making common cause with socialists and communists and liberals and remaining anarchists or not being massacred when their usefulness was exhausted.
Lawrence, I agree with your answer, andthe point that it is more common and important to look at alliances w/ the left, but one example of a place where /some/ anarchists found a temporary alliance with fascists (if not outright Nazis) is recently in Ukraine where, purportedly, some @'s did in fact join in street battles against the cops, much to their ultimate detriment.
Do you have any more info on mentioned street battle? What ended up happening?
Here's a couple things Crimethinc has on the conflict in Ukraine, not as detailed as I would like, but it's a start.


Also, it is clear from reading this that not all anarchists chose to ally themselves with the fascists, and that, at least for some, they would better be referred to as "anarchists."
Much appreciated.
+1 vote
If in a context where working with allies seems not probable, manipulating enemies is possible. I'm more thinking of anarchists that are disconnected from horizontal relationships, including others that identify as anarchists and they only want to do clandestine activities.

Tricking guards, bosses and co-workers to allow access may need the help of others. Also if someone possesses a skill that would be useful to a clandestine activity, it may not seem important what that person's identity and allegiances are.

I'm not talking about the world of professional militancy here, more of an example of a covert anarchist, like some of the whistleblowers for WikiLeaks, some of which held some rudimentary anti-authoritarian views despite being part of the military.

Also throughout history the workforce, including the military, there are always individual saboteurs that take their disgruntlement out on their employers. They might otherwise hold views that the left would cringe at, but they have no desire to be sung of as a hero and might even self-identify as an asshole. Anarchists can participate in these types of activities as well and with these kinds of individuals.

The problem is more along with message. Is an anarchist message getting out through these actions or are these actions just occurring without any responsibility being taken for them? Anarchist individualists tend to impose their views where they can and I'd imagine a bunch of rude boys (let's call them manarchists) wouldn't give a shit if the chaos guy of the group attributed their paths of destruction to an ominous anarchist cell name and wrote a manifesto threatening more of the same and explaining why they are doing the attacks.

One of the main problems with the present anarchist milieu is that it has adopted too much liberal and leftist cultural norms. This includes the post-left. It is as if every anarchist has to run a leftist moral gauntlet to deserve the title "anarchist". They can't come from a simple rejection of government, religion, school and/or work. Many anarchists participate in systems of control over students, as teachers professors, academics. Those that don't hardly present much of an argument against it. Then there are the courts that anarchist hold, thinking they can resolve things as mini-states within the "community". It is all a bunch of nonsense ran by overgrown children, the entire anarchist milieu is. To me, anarchists might do well to start from the beginning. Pick the base institutions are our enemies. Government, church, work, school. That's good enough. Now find accomplices to aid in the sabotage of these institutions, humiliate their leaders and loud personalities, and weaken those forces that defend them. End activism.
answered Apr 8, 2014 by hpwombat (3,910 points)
Do you think getting an anarchist message out through actions is important?

In your second paragraph you write that "it may not seem important what that person's identity and allegiances are." Are you suggesting that identity and allegiance is important (that doesn't seem to jive with the rest of what your saying).

I really enjoyed your last paragraph. I probably have more say, but I'll add it later.
It is agreement with Lawrence's view. Temporary accomplices or even accomplices that don't necessarily hold your views may join you in activity. This isn't saying work with Nazis, liberals, conservatives, leftists, theists, atheists, agnostics or whatever. If an anarchist message is to come out of the group's activities (thus have a propaganda effect), they must make it known what they are (anarchists) and why they did what they did.

If they don't announce they are anarchists nor why they did an action, it is typical for the social order to fill in the blanks. An anarchist burns down a black church and people might assume some Nazi did it, so they need to communicate who did it and why. An anarchist attacks a school and they assume it was just some over the top hijinks, so communicating why is important. The actual make-up of the group need not be 100%, but they must be okay with their message being an anarchist one.
I see. What you call the propaganda effect is what saw as the symbolic aspect of the act. I referred to this in my initial questions, and saw the (potential) problem of the symbolism of the act being tainted by working with non-anarchists. Perhaps I misused or misunderstand symbolism. Anyhow. Seeing as the social order has a tremendous capacity to recuperate, is the propaganda effect done in the hopes that it will reach at least a few? Also, is the propaganda effect the main purpose, or would that vary?
It would vary. Just as there are many types of open activities anarchists can do, there are also many different types of clandestine activities. Sometimes an anarchist my opt to not claim responsibility because the action speaks louder than words or the chance of repercussions too extreme, as examples. Sometimes the anarchist isn't the strongest personality in the group, which is often the case for a lot of the clandestine activities in the 70s, where the message was mainly controlled by Marxist-Leninists, but large numbers of anarchists participated.

It is the fascination with oppression that anarchists have taken on, along with the burden of often not being part of the oppressed. This is a tricky situation in some respects, but in others can easily be answered. The easy answer is to just target domination. Let those that want to hate groups of people or the cultural mindsets people come from and their stupid language, do that. That is a distraction and goes no where. There has been no progress from this approach. Time and again there is the reference to becoming part of the community, to organizing the community...whenever anarchists are supposed to sacrifice themselves to being browbeaten it is for the sake of some abstract community that needs to be organized, educated, participated with and so on.

The results of these actions rarely result in anything significant and typically result in the dissolution of all groups involved after some period of time going no where fast with the community organizing strategy. It might be that making a community organizing group is building an institution, which is like building a business, which is boring as fuck and who'd want to waste their free time doing boring work with little to no results from it. The resources are a money pit with no one wanting to donate. When people do donate, the resources given are not enough to launch any program to handle people in a way that would even supplement an entire community. Very often churches already do this work, as do non-denominational groups and being different from these groups is difficult and doesn't really spread much of a message other than "hey, I'm a good person that helps people". There might be people that have great success stories and find that stuff interesting, but that isn't why I'm an anarchist.

I can't say I've been very successful either, so don't get me wrong. Anyways, I'm off point, but will post my comment anyway.